This guide can be used to estimate a woman’s body fat percentage by eye. In contrast to most of the the compilation photos you can find online, all of the photos in this guide were taken within a few days of having done a laboratory grade body composition measurement, namely hydrostatic weighing, DXA scanning (most commonly) or multi-frequency BIA scanning. All photos are from clients of Menno or publicly posted photos from the internet. The guide starts with photos of low to high body fat levels in different individuals and ends with compilation images of various body fat percentages.
As a semi-objective reference, the following table from the American Council on Exercise is useful to keep in mind. Many people have a distorted reference of how any body fat percentage looks, because they’ve relied on unreliable body fat measurements that were often not calibrated for athletic populations, in particular skinfold calipers with inappropriate BF% equations and single-frequency BIA scans. Objectively, even most female physique competitors do not manage to get under 12% body fat, as this comprises essential body fat levels.
|Classification||Female body fat percentage|
Reference by percentage
39.1%, 24.6% & 13.7% (DXA): Dr Natalia Spierings
17.4% & 17% (DXA): Bikini contest shape
21.9% vs. 17% (DXA)
20% vs. 18% (hydrostatic weighing)
25% (Multi-frequency BIA)
This is a typical feminine body fat storage pattern with most fat stored on the lower body and hips.
26.9% vs. 15.7% (DXA)
36.7% (DXA): Overweight
44% (DXA): Obese
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